Sunday, August 18, 2013

Another Adele, with an indie twist

album review

Laura Marling brings a touch of folk to the alternative rock loving Britpop scene and it's worth listening to

Artist: Laura Marling
Album: Once I Was An Eagle

Indie folk darling Laura Marling may only be 23 years old, but she has already done much she can be proud of. The British singer-songwriter has previously released three well received albums, impressed critics, and earned two Mercy Music Prize nominations, and now her fourth album is another feather in her already well-decorated cap.

Her most confident release yet, Once I Was An Eagle sees the singer collaborate once again with producer Ethan Johns, who also helmed her last two records, I Speak Because I Can (2010) and A Creature I Don't Know (2011). The album's 16 tracks that together run for a little over an hour are delivered in two parts that are separated by an interlude: the intense first half that plays with the same tones and paints them slightly differently over the course of a number of tracks, and the more dynamic second half that continues to veer through even more relationship musings, undertaking a journey from fragility to self assurance.

Combining eastern and western influences, and making use of diverse instruments such as the sitar, tabla, cello, organ, and guitar, Marling weaves a poetic tapestry on a canvas that can be sparse or enchanting and sometimes both. The initial songs melt into one another, weaving in and out of the melody that also eventually returns to end the record, while the latter tracks incline more towards her folk roots. The inevitable Joni Mitchell comparisons and hints of Bob Dylan-esque lyricism might signal towards derivativeness but that takes little away from the album's many merits. Its moodiness is affecting, and its charm gives Adele a run for her money.

With a voice as beautiful as hers and a delivery this fluid, it is easy to see why she has been getting so much love from the critics. But those who want instant pop gratification might be better off looking elsewhere. Reflective, pensive, and perhaps even a little self indulgent, Once I Was An Eagle does not feel young and modern, and for some listeners it might lack the playfulness and immediacy that would have made it generate the kind of earworms that generally reside on pop charts. But for those who have a taste for its genre, the set is powerful and memorable, and its take on the feelings and struggles of a difficult relationship might resonate with the audience.

Be it the brooding of 'You Know' or the fieriness of 'Master Hunter', Once I Was An Eagle is a captivating set and the most accomplished record created by a talented young singer-songwriter. Laura Marling has come a long way since her association with Noah and the Whale and Mumford & Sons, and the future promises great things to come for and from this British songstress. It won't be a shock if Eagle's tracks don't become a fixture on the Top 40 charts, but don't be surprised if you see it on a few 'best of the year' lists; it certainly is a worthy candidate.

- By Sameen Amer

 Instep, The News on Sunday - 18th August, 2013

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